July 3, 2017 - Dust monitoring results from underground coal mines in Queensland, Australia are now available online.
According to Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Dr. Anthony Lynham, the results at the Department of Natural Resources and Mines website would be published quarterly as part of the reforms to tackle coal workers’ pneumoconiosis.
Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis or black lung is caused by long-term exposure to respirable coal dust. A total of 22 confirmed cases has been reported to the Department of Natural Resources and Mines since May 2015.
“Transparency is important, and now these dust levels are available to workers, their families, and coal mining communities,” Dr. Lynham said.
“This implements another of the recommendations of the independent review I established last year into our existing screening system for coal workers.
“I am determined to get on top of this issue to protect workers now and into the future and to be open and transparent as we progress.”
The results which are for the first quarter of 2017 shows that all coal operators are keeping dust levels below the regulatory exposure limit of 3 milligrams per cubic metre, with averages below 1.5 milligrams per cubic metre.
Dr. Lynham said the figures show a decrease in average dust levels over the past 12 months and he acknowledged the shared response to coal workers’ pneumoconiosis by industry and unions.
The move to publish the data is part of the reforms flowing from the Monash University review announced in January 2016. The review recommended a range of reforms to the state’s coal mine workers’ health scheme.
Since July 2016, coal miners’ compulsory chest X-rays have been assessed at least twice by an Australian radiologist and then by US-based experts. By the end of 2017, the dual reading of chest X-rays will transition to Australian B-reader qualified radiologists with support from the US.
By the end of the year, coal mine workers will be able to avail world-class function tests, with new standards to set out clear requirements for medical practices conducting the tests, including training for staff members, spirometry testing and interpretation, spirometry equipment, and quality control.
Part of the reforms will be a training program for doctors, with a register to be established of accredited doctors, medical providers and clinics to undertake health examinations, lung function tests, and take and interpret chest X-rays.
The reformed scheme will be audited, including medical providers and clinics on the medical register.
Coal mine workers who are concerned about their health are urged to visit their doctors.